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GM Avoids UAW Strike at Four Michigan Plants

A day after the United Auto Workers set a strike deadline for about 700 union members employed at GM Subsystems, the two sides reached an agreement. 

Terry Dittes speaks
UAW VP Terry Dittes set a strike deadline for workers at four GM plants in Michigan, but the deal got done.

The tentative deal covers workers employed by a subcontractor responsible for maintenance work at four General Motors assembly plants in Michigan, including two plants building electric vehicles.

In a memo to local UAW officers and bargaining representatives at GM plants around the U.S., Terry Dittes, the head of the union’s General Motors Department, said the union set a strike deadline for Thursday morning for employees of GM Subsystems Manufacturing LLC, a contractor handling subassemblies at the GM truck plant in Flint, Michigan as well as EV plants in Orion Township, Michigan and Detroit as well as a passenger-car plant in Lansing, Michigan.

What could have been

Dittes gave local union officers at the four Michigan assembly plants their marching orders if a deal wasn’t reached. He told them GM workers not employed by GM Subsystem would have to cross picket lines around the plant if there is a strike. Unionized employees of GM Systems subcontractors, such as Aramark, which food service and various maintenance jobs in the four assembly plants could honor any picket lines, according to Dittes’ memo.

2022 Chevy Bolt inspection line at Orion plant
The Orion (Michigan) plant that builds the Bolt and Bolt EUV would have been impacted by the strike.

If the strike was brief, 24 hours or less, the plants would have halted operations since the employees of GM Subsystems are responsible for delivering critical parts directly to the assembly line, leading to the suspension of production of vehicles such as the heavy-duty pickup trucks built in Flint, the Chevrolet Bolt EV and EUV bolt in Orion and the GMC Hummer EV built in Factory Zero in Detroit.

GM recently raised the pay for striking workers to $400 per week.

GM conflicts with UAW continue

The strife involving GM Subsystems underscores the continuing tensions between GM’s management and the UAW, which have continued since the end of a 40-day strike in the fall of 2019. The tension has been exacerbated by scandal in the UAW upper ranks, which has undercut the authority of the union’s top officers.

GM Flint Silverado line
GM’s Flint plant would have been forced to shut down had UAW workers walked.

The conflict flared up last month when Dittes complained about the failure of GM’s management to allow for the unionization card check at the new GM-LG Energy Solutions Ultium battery plant in Lordstown, Ohio. 

“We have been receiving many calls from the workers at Ultium Lordstown, Ohio, who want to join and be members of the UAW,” Dittes said in a memo to local UAW officers. “Ultium has flat out rejected those simple basic features of a card check recognition we have proposed.” 

The issue, critical to both GM and the UAW, remains unresolved.

The walkout at GM Subsystems also underscored the continuing complaints over the multi-tiered wage system used in the industry’s unionized assembly plants. 

Workers employed by GM Subsystems, who sometimes referred to “third-tier” workers because they are paid less than regular, full-time GM employees covered by the UAW-GM labor agreement. Full-time production GM workers who are paid more than $32 per hour and are eligible for-profit sharing, while new workers growing into the full-time wage are paid between $22 and $24 per hour and are also eligible for profit-sharing.

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